Creating an Inner Sanctuary

Saturday, February 1, 2014

19th Torah portion, 7th in Exodus – Terumah

25:1-27:19 (96 verses)


God asks the Israelites to donate gifts (terumah) for the building of the Tabernacle (mishkan) so that God may “dwell among them.” Instructions for the construction of the ark, table, and menorah are provided. Detailed directions are given on how to build the mishkan.


“Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among (or within) them” (Exodus 25:8)

As I mentioned in my sermon last week at Or Chadash, what happens on Friday night in our Community Room is only symbolic of what is to actually happen to each one of you outside of the synagogue. The synagogue therefore is only a taste of what you need to actualize in your lives.

In her boo, The Color Purple, author Alice Walker writes, “Have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for Him to show. Any God I ever felt in church, I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”

One commentator suggests that verse eight indicates that God desires to dwell “within” the people, not “in” the sanctuary.  Each person is to build a sanctuary in his own heart for God to dwell in. How do we merit the indwelling of God?  One important way is by setting one’s ego aside in deference to the will and the teachings of God. Many cultures espouse the values of justice, decency, mercy, and benevolence.  Yet, many crimes by nations have been committed under the guise of “benevolence.”  This occurs when individuals are the arbiters of what is comprised by these values.

The person who believes that God is the center of our universe will have a more sturdy foundation in making moral decisions.  Our sages have illustrated this message in many stories found in our sacred writings. The Talmud records a story of Rabbi Gamliel inviting seven scholars to a special session, but found that eight scholars had come.  “Who is here that was not invited?” he asked.  Shemuel HaKattan said, “It is I,” and left.

As a matter of fact it was not Shemuel who had been uninvited.  Shemuel only acted so to protect the person who had entered without permission.  The Talmud compares Shemuel’s noble action to that of Moses, who was the first to manifest this technique of taking the blame on himself to shield the dignity of another person. The action of Shmuel teaches us that one should not rely on a personal own sense of what is proper and what is noble.  Personal interests often mislead us.  We must look beyond self-interest and surrender our will to the Divine truth. Then truly, God will dwell within the sanctuary of our hearts.


  1. Shouldn’t one own up to his own mistake? 
  2. Shouldn’t the actual person who was not invited have stood up and left?

Focus: The next time you are in a meeting or about to make a decision, ask yourself, “Is this to benefit me more than the organization?” Choose the organization and see what happens.